A few months before she graduated from St. Joseph's Academy in the late 1990s, Becky Uffman Eldredge had a spiritual wake-up call.
At the Academy’s retreat for seniors, she “found God in the silence.”
It was reinforced that summer when, through the Diocese of Baton Rouge, she attended a Catholic Leadership Institute at Notre Dame.
Now, what to do with this discovery?
Eldredge recalls that, as a junior in high school, “she put the pen to the paper and has not stopped writing since.”
Today, the 36-year-old wife to Chris and mother of Abby, Brady and Mary finds herself in a profession which enriches not only her life but that of many others. As a spiritual director, retreat facilitator, writer and blogger, she meets with men and women of all ages to help lead them through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.
Her book, “Busy Lives and Restless Souls — How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life,” published and released this month by Loyola Press in Chicago, seeks to help others discover God at work in the everyday moments of their lives through Ignatian spirituality. She leads retreats and days of reflection for parishes and other ministry organizations, and gives Ignatian preached retreats at various retreat houses.
“While St. Ignatius lived more than 500 years ago, my life is deeply touched by the wisdom and practices he offers to us in our prayer and life with God," Eldredge says. "It was his spirituality that was a basis for the education I received from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in grades K-12. Long before I could name it, I was picking up nuggets of St. Ignatius’s wisdom from the environment of my elementary school and my high school and the people who taught me in those places.”
Eldredge says it was the spirituality of St. Ignatius "that formed me in my early years of ministry as a college student and young professional."
His spirituality grounded her as she earned her master’s in pastoral studies at Loyola University in New Orleans, she says, and helped her with the spiritual exercises she completed in her late 20s. She worked with the Jesuit retreat organization Charis Ministries for eight years, which she says formed the basis of her training to become a spiritual director through Spring Hill College, a Jesuit school.
“As I seek to do within my ministry work, through my book, I aim to equip my readers with tools of prayer that you can bring into daily life. I offer prayer tools that are accessible within the busyness and fullness of life," she writes in her introduction. “Prayer … helps you see God in all things; awakens you to God’s love; makes you aware of God’s light in the darkness; roots you within the reality of your experience; holds you steady through the hard times; calls you outward; and brings you the grace of joy.”
In her 126-page book, Eldredge challenges her readers to acknowledge the restlessness and forge a new identity. Creating space for prayer and how to answer the call to spiritual awakening are among the exercises in the 10-chapter book.
“I feel that I am a daughter of Ignatius,” says Eldredge, adding that, at times, she jokingly calls herself a “Jesuitte, a woman who lives and breathes the very spirituality that guides the Jesuits, the all-men’s religious order Ignatius founded.”
She readily admits that writing her book, which has been five years in the making, has not been an easy task.
“I made the spiritual exercises while holding my daughter Abby in my arms,” she recalls with a smile.
The spiritual director recently moved back to Baton Rouge after seven years in Athens, Georgia, and Dallas.
“I don’t recommend writing a book, raising little ones and two cross-country moves," she says. "I’m thrilled to be back in this beautiful Catholic culture of south Louisiana!”
She blogs twice a month for Loyola Press and once a week at beckyeldredge.com.
She dedicated “Busy Lives and Restless Souls “ to her husband, who made it possible for her to write the book while raising their three young children.
Her book is available online through Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Target, Amazon, LoyolaPress.com and on her website. In Baton Rouge, it's at Catholic Arts and Gifts, 6184 Florida Blvd.